TALLAHASSEE, FL-The statewide unemployment rate reached 11% in September, matching the record reached in October 1975, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. The rate increased slightly from 10.8% in August, yet is at least four percentage points higher than a year ago.

The agency, which is in charge of jobless claims and assistance programs for workers and companies, counts just over a million residents out of work last month among a statewide labor force of 9.2 million. Non-agricultural employment throughout the Sunshine State totaled just over 7.3 million for the month, representing a job loss of 360,400 or 4.7% over the past year.

The rate of decline is at least a percentage point higher than that for the US, which recorded a 9.8% jobless rate for September. The downturn, dating back to August 2007, started with construction jobs but has now spread to almost all other major industries.

“The recovery is coming slowly, but it is coming,” says Cynthia Lorenzo, director of the FAWI. “The latest unemployment figures confirm that the economic downturn continues to impact a significant number of Floridians and businesses. However, a reduction in employers announcing closing or large-scale layoffs is a positive sign of Florida’s growing economic stability.”

Florida’s job market is expected to start improving in the second quarter of 2010 as the job growth rate turns positive, Lorenzo says. Current forecasts project a job growth rate of 1.5% in the second quarter of next year. State unemployment is forecast to peak at 11% in mid-2010 before beginning a gradual decrease.

Among the state’s largest metropolitan areas, Miami-Fort Lauderdale posted an unemployment rate of 10.9% in September, Tampa-St. Petersburg was at 11.7%, Orlando at 11.5% and Jacksonville at 10.7%. Hendry County had the state’s highest jobless rate at 16.8% for the month, while Liberty County was lowest at 5.3%.

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